by Nouman Bashir,
College of E&ME, NUST, Islamabad
A big element of the so-called “Pakistani Dream” is this idea of lifting yourself up, that anyone can succeed with hard work. That Pakistan is the land of opportunity (unquote: President Zardari at the EU headquarters in Brussels ), a class-free society too.*lost his senses*
There may have been, for some people, just such opportunities (PPP ministers and ‘jayalas’) Many of us can look at friends or family and see people who moved upwards in social station, both economically and socially( though we are always confused about their sources of ‘hard work’)
The Pakistani Model
Just what has that model become? It’s certainly NOT one that rewards hard work, but rather one that rewards acquaintances, and ONLY kinship. Perhaps it never came close to what it once promised to be, especially for hardworking middle class members of our society, but the crony capitalism that we all labor under now has locked this country into a harsh and unforgiving feudalism.
In many ways, an institutionalized form of indentured servitude has been established for entire populations of people. The contracts now aren’t labor in return for room and board, or in return for training for a trade. Instead of signing away freedom for a short amount of time in return for passage, today one signs contracts for credit: credit for a home, credit for education, credit for the proper clothes and accessories to be presentable for work. Credit for a vehicle to get you to the job, a job that serves mainly to feed those lines of credit that were necessary to get the job in the first place.
Bootstraps have been replaced by invisible chains, chains locked in place by signatures on a line marked by an X. Thanks to a political class that serves only owners, not workers, breaking free of those chains has become much harder, while obligations that are supposed to flow down to workers, like healthcare and pensions, are increasingly being abandoned by the corporations. Unlike the contracts that old indentured servants labored under, today’s workers have no end date in sight. There is no contract with an employer, because the contracts have been threaded into the warp and woof of everyday life.
Have a problem with your wallets? Well, obviously the problem is with YOU. YOU didn’t restrain yourself, or weren’t disciplined enough, or didn’t network effectively. Here, buy some books that will teach you how to fix yourself. Workers are the problem. Always the problem, and interlocking institutions work in concert to reinforce this message. WE all work together to reinforce this message. It’s a strange and insidious thing that has grown up over time, and now those who benefit from it are buying and selling political access to ensure that it never changes. (we are a nation of ever-lasting beacons IDIOTS)
What of those who don’t or can’t get on the treadmill, those who’re too poor, or too uneducated thanks to our eviscerated schools, or too dark for our still racist nation to welcome into even this fold? They are left to labor in less essential jobs, still out in the fields and held out as an internal threat, used to frighten middle class workers with stories of crime or threats of a bottom waiting to swallow them up.
In short, most of us are left to fend for ourselves.
The only way out is to help keep the ’system’ in place. If you want to climb the ladder, you need to be either preternaturally disciplined, magically lucky or (and this is how it is usually done) you must not look too closely at what you’re doing and step over any and all in your path and oh yes you need to be a son of a top bureaucrat.
Many of us have realized NOW that the current setup isn’t working for us and our families. No matter how often it’s banged over our heads that the economy is growing and creating jobs (the budget 2009 claims though), more and more of us see no signs of it in our daily lives. Instead, we feel our wages stagnating (despite the 15% raise in the salaries) and our opportunities contracting(as if there were before). Given our collective lack of historical awareness, many of us don’t even realize that this iteration of capitalism isn’t even more than a few decades old.
It’s not set in stone, it’s not a byproduct of some natural law.
We can choose to change it.
Or we can keep on as we are, living with a ’system’( http://www.thesaurus.com hasn’t been able to come up with a better synonym for our so called ’system’).??